As ScreenHub has been quietly muttering for a while, it looks like WIN is about to get serious about local production.
In a media statement issued yesterday, WIN says that it is “in a unique position to play an innovative role in the development of local content”.
WIN is now the owner of both NWS Channel Nine Adelaide, and Perth’s STW Channel Nine, and is still involved in long-running and acrimonious negotiations with the Nine Network over programming.
Purchase of Nine Adelaide added 1.3 million potential viewers to WIN’s network, on top of the 1.6 million in Perth.
With its regional stations, WIN claims that it now has the potential to reach 8.5 million viewers, or 40% of the country’s audience.
The strong wording of the statement suggests that WIN – which also owns satellite broadcaster SelecTV, production house Crawfords, and engineering outfits Digital Distribution Australia and Broadcast Transmission Services – is serious about the move into local content.
WIN – the main regional distributor for the Nine Network – also has regional agreements with Ten. In Tasmania, WIN recently entered a joint venture to create Tasmanian Digital Television, offering Channel Ten free-to-air digital programming. In south-east South Australia, it also provides Channel TEN free-to-air programming through WIN TEN, and in Mildura, the company has a joint venture to create ‘ten mildura’.
WIN has local newsrooms in 19 regional locations, and has acquired two more in Adelaide and Perth.
It’s own production, day-time talk show ‘Susie’, which premiered in June, is doing well, and will broadcast in ‘Susie’ in Adelaide from 30th July at midday.
In the statement, WIN Corporation CEO George Papadopoulos said: “By closely aligning our business and technical infrastructure with the entertainment assets of the group, we will provide our viewers and advertisers with simpler and even greater access to some of our most attractive viewing and advertising options.”.
“The amalgamation of our sales, marketing, production and operations activities is also a natural fit, enabling The WIN Group to forge national strategic partnerships.”
“With this fusion of forces, we are confident we are further adding to the strength, the efficiency and the effectiveness of these extremely successful businesses.”
None of this is going to be good news for the Nine Networks new venture capital owners, who might just wind up providing James Packer with his very own Alan Bond. Packer’s PBL Media sold down its stake to 25% in June.
Under current arrangements with Nine, WIN pays between 32% and 36% of all advertising revenue to Nine for access to its programming, regardless of whether it is earned during WIN’s own programming.
Media analysts have told ScreenHub that this arrangement would simply make it uneconomical for WIN to extend its range of local programming, but that “Bruce Gordon might be mad enough to try.”
Any move to extend local programming would suggest that WIN is intent on breaking this nexus and at least moving to a per-program basis in the Nine contract.
However WIN’s intention might be broader than this. Several Australian producers have mentioned to ScreenHub that they have been “spending time in Wollongong,” suggesting that WIN (and perhaps Prime) is interested in producing their own format television.
A Nine insider recently told ScreenHub that the regional networks and pay television operators were hostage to the output deals that the free-to-air networks have with major US studios and networks.